Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#91 - Pistachio-Saffron Scallops & Squid Ink Pasta With Two Albariños (ish)

I didn't know what to expect.

We've had some Il Macchiaiolo squid ink pasta sitting around after our last trip to Fox & Obel in February.

I don't know anything about Il Macchiaiolo pasta (not cheap but not bad), just that I regretted not buying squid ink pasta in Toronto last year.

We've had squid ink pasta before on tasting menus, though I can't remember where, but never cooked it at home.

Thankfully, the results when combined with great scallops, a light touch of saffron and raw corn were all summery and sublime.

Food: Scallops, squid ink pasta, saffron-pistachio vinaigrette and a sunflower greens and mâche blend

Seared Whole Food's scallops on a bed of perfectly cooked squid ink tagiolini pasta with a saffron-Muscadet-pistachio vinaigrette splashed over everything and raw corn sprinkled over the top of the entire plate.

I can't really describe squid ink pasta. It's tastes mostly like...pasta...but something else is there, something a wee darker in flavor and a bit more substantial. Doesn't even really taste like something derived from seafood, more like pasta flavored with the most fancy gray sea salt and bright earth you've ever tasted and ever so subtle. Best I got to describe it. Something...

Mostly with the meal, it was in the combinations. A bite of scallop with pasta and a little raw corn with the vinaigrette drizzle was the winner. I loved the pasta by itself almost as much. It was just so well-cooked. Nice resistance with the right give at the right time.

Sunflower greens are stupid expensive for the amount you get. This was our first time trying them and...they're worth it. Sort of like pea shoots and sunflower dust had a baby.

I don't enjoy much about corn. Creamed corn can blow me. That's not food. But corn on the cob and its little de-cobbed friend raw corn has a place. This was good stuff, juicy and sweet and added an element that was probably integral in the success of the meal. It made it all summery, brighter and corn with albariño's mineral qualities are quite great together.

Wine: 2008 La Cana Albariño Rias Baixas ($15 - WDC) and 2008 Quinta do Feital Auratus Alvarinho-Trajadura Vinho Regional Minho Portugal ($15 - Binny's)

An albariño mini-tasting. Or duel. Or something. Spain v. Portugal, just like the World Cup match-up today. And just like the 1-0 win by Spain, the Spanish albariño won a close one.

La Cana is a project between the Gil family (Juan Gil line) of Jumilla and importer Jorge Ordoñez. This is the first vintage. Both of us found it bland by itself with nothing particularly distinctive or interesting but that changed dramatically with the food.

Light yellow in the glass with a hint of green. A pear core with chalky lime on the finish and a gentle acidity that nonetheless kept it in the zippier vein. Pleasing and balanced with nice verve and good minerality. In the albariño world, it's fine and good, especially for ones that highlight their natural acidity and minerality over more distinctive fruit.

The Auratus was the undisputed winner by itself. Darker gold with tons of stone fruit and lemon meringue notes though it settled into something more pedestrian. Still tasty with a fine core of minerality as well and just enough acidity, though less pronounced or interesting than the La Cana. The Auratus is a Minho wine, a wine region covering roughly the same territory as Vinho Verde in northern Portugal but is a regional classification similar to a Vin de Pays that allows more blending freedom. This one is 70% albariño with 30% trajadura.

As a comparison, while the Auratus seemed to be destined to win the night, I reached for the La Cana more often with the food.

Pairing: 91 It's albariño and seafood. Like Muscadet and vermentino, it's why they make the stuff

Though oddly, the corn might have been the best with both wines. Something about the summer quality the corn brought (have I mentioned how summery everything was?) with the zippier acid and minerals in both albariños that made it magically delicious.

Both wines brought something different with the food but the sheer volume of choices on the plate and in the glass was what made everything so nice to eat and drink.

We went through a trial trying to figure out what to pair with scallops and squid ink pasta, including a thorough scouring of wine-pairing websites. Albariño was barely mentioned.

We stayed basic and intuitive about the whole thing and it entirely paid off.

Oh...and cold walnut-chocolate pie rules.

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